Middle East

Iran: Missile tests not in violation of nuclear deal

US says missile test carried out in Semnan on Sunday, but Tehran insists its programme is not covered by nuclear deal.

Zarif addressed reporters alongside his visiting French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault [Atta Kenare/AFP]

Iran's missile tests do not involve rockets with nuclear warheads and are not part of a historic deal signed two years ago by world powers, according to the country's foreign minister.

Javad Zarif affirmed his position on Tuesday, a day after White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the United States was "aware that Iran fired a missile" and was "looking into the exact nature of it".

Addressing reporters alongside his visiting French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault, Zarif said: "The missile issue is not part of the nuclear deal."

Reiterating Iran's traditional stance, Zarif said that his country's missiles are "not designed for the capability of carrying a nuclear warhead".

Iran is only using ballistic missiles to defend itself, he added.

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A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a ballistic missile test was carried out on Sunday from a site near Semnan, east of Tehran, according to the Reuters news agency.

The medium-range ballistic missile reportedly exploded after 1,010km, the official said, adding that the last time this type of test was test launched was in July 2016.

Nuclear deal

The reported test drew wide condemnation as many feared it could be in violation of a UN resolution adopted in 2015 prohibiting ballistic missile tests designed to deliver a nuclear warhead.

The resolution was part of the nuclear deal between Iran and the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany.

US Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he would work with politicians and President Donald Trump's administration to hold Iran accountable.

Meanwhile, the European Union called on Tehran to "refrain from activities which deepen mistrust". EU foreign policy spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said that such a test was "inconsistent" with the UN resolution.

Israel also condemned the test.

During the US election campaign, Trump branded the nuclear agreement "the worst deal ever negotiated", telling voters that he would either rip it up or seek a better deal.

Speaking from Tehran, France's Ayrault voiced "concern" over the reported test.

Iran nuclear deal, a year on

"France has expressed its concern at Iran's continuation of its ballistic missile tests on several occasions," Ayrault said.

He said the continued tests are "contrary to the spirit" of the Security Council resolution.

But, he added: "We harbour real concerns about the US administration's attitude towards this agreement."

In a similar vein, Zarif said that he hoped Iran's defence programme "is not used by the new US administration ... as a pretext to create new tensions".

After an urgent UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday, called by Washington, the US envoy to the UN said the test was "absolutely unacceptable".

"We have confirmed that Iran did have a medium-size missile launch testing," said Nikki Haley.

"That is more than enough to be able to deliver a nuclear weapon," she sais, adding that the US "is not naive".

Al Jazeera's Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Iran's capital, Tehran, said Iranian officials insist that the country has complied with the restrictions imposed in the deal.

Meanwhile, Russia said the test by Iran does not contravene the UN resolution.

"Such actions, if they took place, do not breach the resolution," Sergei Ryabkov, the Russian deputy foreign minister, told Interfax news agency, saying demands for UN talks were aimed at "heating up the situation".

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies